Carlo Paalam upsets reigning champion, secures Olympic medal

Published August 3, 2021, 10:54 AM

by Carlo Anolin

Philippines’ Carlo Paalam reacts after winning against Uzbekistan’s Shakhobidin Zoirov during their men’s fly (48-52kg) quarterfinal boxing match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. ( AFP)

No goodbyes just yet.

Flyweight boxer Carlo Paalam pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after stunning 2016 Rio Games gold medalist Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan via split decision to advance in the semis and secure a sure spot on the bronze medal at the Kokugikan Arena Tuesday, Aug. 3

Paalam only needed two rounds to upset Zoirov, starting aggressively early in the first round with a barrage of 1-2 combinations, a complete opposite of the technical approach he showed during the previous match against Mohamed Flissi of Algeria in their Round of 16 bout.

Gaining momentum with his clean and direct punches, the Bukidnon native boxer unloaded a solid left hook with 50 seconds left before Zoirov, also the 2019 world champion, retaliated with strong body shots.

In the waning seconds, the two boxers clashed head on as Zoirov landed a 1-2 combination while Paalam countered with two hefty left hooks.

In an unexpected turn of events in the second frame, both boxers suffered respective cuts after a head clash with each other which prompted the referee to have themselves diagnosed on their respective corners.

Little did Paalam know that he is just a few seconds away from securing the fourth Olympic medal for the Philippines in Tokyo.

With two straight rounds in favor of Paalam, the scavenger-turned-boxer hailing from Cagayan de Oro was granted a split decision victory, 20-18, 20-18, 19-19, 20-18, 20-18, as mixed emotions pour inside the Kokugikan Arena.

Hichem Menchaoui of Tunisia was the lone judge to give a draw.

“We are overjoyed with Carlo’s win over the Rio gold medalist. It was an upset that the coaching staff told me was imminent, but we were still concerned until Carlo came out smoking in the first round. He truly looked like a champion then,” said ABAP President Ricky Vargas in a statement.

Up next for the Filipino boxer is Ryomei Tanaka of Japan, who earlier defeated 2016 Rio Games light flyweight champion Yurberjen Herney Martínez Rivas, on Thursday, Aug. 5.

With the win, Paalam became the latest boxer to secure a medal, following the footsteps of teammates Nesthy Petecio, who will fight for the gold against Japanese foe Sena Irie later afternoon, and Eumir Felix Marcial, who will lock horns with Oleksandr Khyzhniak of Ukraine in the semifinals.